Lyanna Mormont was suffering a bad case of writer’s block. How was anyone supposed to produce their best work when they were constantly interrupted with demands for ridiculous re-writes? In the past two days she’d been asked to re-write a scene to include not one but two Clegane brothers in bed with Walda, writing in the HBIC’s talentless granddaughter as a doctor (of course they might just win an Emmy for comedy if all the stumbles were kept in the final versions), creating a long-lost son for a woman in a coma, and coming up with dialog for a duck. Yes, a duck. Lyanna really didn’t want to think about that one.
At least she wasn’t involved in the script for the finale. Which would be live. Which was certain to be a nightmare. Everyone was sure this was a bad idea, and no one was more sure than Lyanna. Because the show runners were sure to ask the writers for last minute changes in what was bound to be an already-insane script. If she could just finish the script for the penultimate episode, she’d be happy.
She’d worked out the first three acts, but the end of the final act was breaking her head.
She leaned back in her chair, twiddling her finely sharpened pencil around in her fingers, imagining who she could throw it at.
There was a knock on the door and turning, she saw Mace Tyrell standing there. Her fingers twitched.
“There you are, our most innovative writer,” he said ponderously. “I have a proposal for you.”
Lyanna groaned internally. She gripped the pencil tightly, and counted to ten.
“Lysa and Renly aren’t so very motivated about this finale – I need your spunk and determination to make it the most highly-rated soap finale in history!”
The pencil snapped in her fingers. “Uh, but what about this episode?” She waved her hand – and the pencil pieces – toward her computer screen.
“What, you don’t have it in the bag? I’m sure it’s fine. It’s the finale we need fresh blood for. Just come and give them a bit of inspiration.”
Lyanna looked daggers at him. “You know I work alone.”
Mace looked at her nervously. “Yes, yes, of course. Just come up with something to infuse some life into this thing. The others will take it from there.”
Lyanna sighed. “Fine. But I’ll require sustenance.”
“Of course, of course. I’ll have food sent to you. We’ve ordered Hot Pie’s Hot Pies in.”
“You know I don’t eat that pasty stuff. I need protein.”
Mace took a step back out of the doorway. “I’ll have the usual sent. Then you’ll do it?” Not waiting for an answer, he hurried down the hallway, muttering, “Good, good, excellent!”
Sighing heavily, Lyanna turned to the script in front of her. Right. So this would require something drastic.
Glancing around to be sure no one else was looking, she whipped open a cabinet door and pulled out a wooden device that looked like a cross between a medieval torture device and a child’s game spinner. In it she had stuffed the names of every character, every setting they’d ever used, a bunch of random plots, and all her favorite red herrings. Literally, smoked red herring. She licked her lips, grabbed one out of its sealed Rambtonware container, and took a bite. Then she held her breath, crossed her fingers, and gave the wheel a spin.
The results usually read something like an accusation from the board game Clue: “Varys with Joffrey on the kitchen table with a ski mask” or “Cersei with Beric in the woods outside of Casterly Rock with a butcher knife (she had particularly liked that one)” or “Sansa with Podrick on a trapeze eating mushrooms.”
Sometimes the results gave her a few laughs, which broke the tension and sometimes gave her a seed of an idea, but this time it was a real hit. Her eyes lit up and she rubbed her hands together with delight. Cersei would be furious, but the rest of the cast would love it.
Lyanna slammed the cabinet door shut and got to work.
Brienne shifted uncomfortably in the make-up chair. She wondered for the half a hundredth time why the showrunners were so keen on trying to make her look beautiful when everyone knew she was homely. But that didn’t stop her very talented make-up artist from doing her level best to make Brienne look better.
“Now hold still, I just have to do your eyelashes. Open your eyes wide and look up.” Shae bent over Brienne and carefully applied the mascara. “Dang, that’s not coming out right. Hmm, this new make-up brush isn’t quite doing the trick. Let me get another other one.”
Brienne couldn’t imagine why it could matter. A bit of mascara didn’t make the difference on a face like hers.
But Shae found the proper brush, Brienne screwed her face up in just the right way for Shae to work her magic, and Brienne could finally get out of that infernal chair. Sometimes she wished she could just play a character who was as manly and ugly as she really was.
As she made her way out of the make-up trailer, she nearly collided with an oversized red-headed, red-bearded man. She harrumphed loudly at him.
“Oh, pardon me, mate.”
“I’m not your ‘mate’ and watch where you are going.” Brienne stalked out without giving him another look.
But behind her she heard a loud catcall that could only mean he’d figured out she was a woman. She rolled her eyes. Another obnoxious cast member.
To clear her head, Brienne decided to cut through the props department. She enjoyed seeing how the various props were built – she used swing a mean hammer herself before she was “discovered” as an actress. And she loved the smell of wood shavings.
Slipping past the carpenter’s shop, she overheard Quentyn critiquing a bed Dickon had built.
“It looks great, but you’ll have to shore it up much more than that. It has to hold both Clegane brothers and Walda, you know.”
Brienne had to clap her hand over her mouth to keep from offering unwanted advice, and she hurried past the 1960s-era rocket to get to her sound stage.
Brienne raises Cat’s leg gently, lifting it up and down, then bending the knee carefully, moves the lower leg back and forth.
“You’re doing an excellent job today, Mrs. Stark. The circulation is going quite well. Soon you’ll be up and running like new.”
Trying not to groan over the ridiculous dialog – and even more about to come – Brienne set her face into a blithe look as Camera 2 was set to take over the scene.
“Now it’s time for the little piggies.” Brienne wiggles each of Cat’s toes. “This little piggy goes to the market, this little piggy stays home, this little piggy has roast boar for dinner, this little piggy has none. And this little piggy cries, ‘whee whee whee whee’ all the way–”
“Right this way, Robb, err, Rodd, err, Mr. Stark.” Dr. Margaery stumbled into the room, followed by Rodd Stark and a big red-headed red-bearded man. “Oh, hello Brianne, err, Brienne. I didn’t know that Mrs. Stark’s psychotherapy was scheduled for right now.”
“Physiotherapy, doctor, and I was just about finished.” It had been decided that since they were running behind their shooting schedule, and all resources were being put towards the big final episode, they would just incorporate any missteps on Margaery’s part into the show for these last few episodes.
“Of course, Brienne, I’ve just brought her son and his, um, friend, to view her – err, visit her.”
Brienne moved slightly to block any untoward klutzy actions of Margaery – she’d made a pact to protect Cat before that morning’s rehearsals. Cat was already covered in bruises from yesterday’s shoot, and Brienne herself still had a red mark from where Margaery had swung her stethoscope into her face. It had taken all of Shae’s talents to cover it. “Yes, of course, doctor. They can feel free to visit while I finish her therapy.”
Margaery exited, and Brienne swore that she could hear the woman sigh with relief to have made it out of the scene with only a few mistakes. Or maybe that breath of relief came from Cat.
“Mother, I’ve brought the man I told you about!” Robb hurries to his mother’s side, taking her hand gently and kissing her on the cheek. “See, it’s Tormund, my great love.”
Tormund approaches the other side of the bed, where Brienne is still working with Cat’s other leg, and is a little less enthusiastic than his lover. He speaks with a Scandinavian accent, “Umm, nice to meet you, Mrs. Stark.” He takes Cat’s other hand and shakes it vigorously, so it flops around, then puts it down abruptly.
“Oh, Tormund, you should give her a kiss too – after all, you’re going to be her son-in-law.”
The burly boyfriend bends accordingly, and smooches Cat on the cheek. His beard tickles her, and her face twitches.
“It’s a miracle! She’s coming out of her coma!” Robb shouts joyously. He pats his mother’s hand several times and cries, “Mother, my dear, speak to me!”
“I’m sorry, but it’s not unusual for coma patients to have involuntary movements like that.” Brienne informs the son matter-of-factly.
Robb looks vastly disappointed. They all watch as Cat lies comatose and does nothing. Brienne bends over Cat’s feet to finish the last part of her therapy.
Suddenly a slight shrieking noise is heard. Robb looks confusedly at his mother. Brienne looks discombobulated. Tormund has an evil grin on his face.
Brienne sputters, “Excuse me, but I caught my…my…knee on the lever for raising the bed.”
As the camera cuts away and zooms in on Robb who continues to gaze at his comatose mother, Brienne glares at Tormund. He had goosed her! During a scene!
“Cut! That’s a wrap!”
“A wrap? You’re going to leave that in there?” Not that Brienne really wanted to do another scene. They’d already done four of these and it was nearly lunch.
“Yep, it looks fine – we’ll just edit the volume on your shriek.” The director turned to the crew. “That’s lunch!”
“Right, then.” Brienne turned to Tormund, who had this dreamy look on his face. “What do you think you’re playing at?”
“I just couldn’t resist. You were bending over her so nicely, working her muscles – and yours!” He now seemed to speak in an Aussie accent. “Makes me want to work mine.” He raised his eyebrows suggestively.
“Don’t ever interrupt my work again. It’s bad enough to be mocked without actual physical contact. I’ll have you up on sexual harassment charges!”
“But, I really like you!” Tormund protested.
“A likely story.” Brienne went over to Cat and helped her up. “Come on, Cat, let’s go get this make-up off and have a nice male-free lunch.”
Cat took her arm, sliding out of the hospital bed. Together they strode regally out off the set. Cat took a glance back at the still-sputtering Tormund. “I don’t know, Brienne, he’s kind of cute,” she whispered.
Brienne just rolled her eyes and continued on. “Nothing that a nice grilled Ahi won’t solve.”
“But I meant it!” Tormund’s voice was heard in the distance.
Back in the script room, there is the sound of weeping. Another voice is heard trying to console the first.
“Can you believe this crap that they put on me? How am I supposed to hold my head up?”
“There, there. It’s only one episode. No one will remember it by the next day.”
“But this was my one chance! And it’s going to be awful!”
“That’s the life of a script.”
“Easy for you to say – you’re the finale script!”
Finale Script tried not to gloat. “Well, I’m not final yet. Anything could happen. But yes, it’s a good start.”
Penultimate Episode Script wept inconsolably.
“Come on, let’s go chat with the archived scripts. That’ll cheer you right up.”
Penultimate Episode Script perked up and sniffed, “For reals?”
“For reals.” Finale Script put her arm around her companion, and they headed off into the sunset.
Links (and things) I found when “researching” (read: procrastinating) this chapter that just refused to be written.
Rambtonware: Westeros version of Tupperware. Which just shows how far a mind will go to try to create something mildly amusing. So I looked up what Tupper meant, found the definition below, looked up “ram sigil game of thrones” and Voilá! Not very funny, but kind of interesting that there is an easy equivalent. What? It was late!
“Tupper Name Meaning English: occupational name for a herdsman who had charge of rams, from an agent derivative of Middle English to(u)pe ‘ram’ (of uncertain origin). German (Tüpper): occupational name for a potter, from Middle Low German duppe, Rhenish düppen ‘pot’. This is predominantly a Rhineland surname.” Of course, I only used the first definition. Surname Tupper,House Rambton.
Soap opera info:
What’s a soap opera shooting schedule like (includes someone describing what it’s like playing a dead body)
Why do soap operas have a reputation for being bad? Actually, a pretty good description of why soaps are the way they are. Pretty much what you might expect.
What is the soap opera effect? Something I have noticed when watching old TV shows sometimes. Now I know what it's called, and you do too. In case you ever wondered.
Not a great set of responses, but it made me go read the Wikipedia entry on Soap Operas and it had this little bit of history that gets to the origins of it:
The first serial considered to be a "soap opera" was Painted Dreams, which debuted on October 20, 1930 on Chicago radio station WGN. Early radio series such as Painted Dreams were broadcast in weekday daytime slots, usually five days a week, when most of the listeners would be housewives; thus, the shows were aimed at and consumed by a predominantly female audience.
And a bit about the comatose mind:
The neuroscience of comas of comas or what it means to be trapped inside your own mind.